Crossing the U.S. ‹› Canada Border by Bus or Train: COVID-19 Requirements

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COVID-19 closed borders around the world in 2020, but many travelers are excited to see that non-essential travel between countries is opening up once more.

The border between the United States and Canada has been open to vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents since August 2021, and now the United States government will welcome vaccinated Canadian citizens to cross the border as of November 8, 2021.

In even more exciting news, bus companies including OurBus and New York Trailways will once more offer cross-border bus service to help eager explorers take advantage of the reopened border.

But before you dash across the border to taste your first authentic poutine in 18 months, you might want to read up on the requirements for non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada border. And we’re here to help!

Below, we break down the COVID-19-related requirements and restrictions for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers seeking to travel from the United States into Canada and then vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers seeking to travel from Canada into the United States.

Please note that this information is subject to change at any time.

For the most up-to-date information for travel into Canada, please visit the Canada Border Services Agency’s site.

For the most up-to-date information for travel into the United States, please visit the COVID-19 travel page of USA.gov.

Traveling from the United States to Canada

Canadian citizens (including dual citizens), people registered under the Indian Act, and protected persons with refugee status are allowed to enter Canada regardless of vaccination status.

Foreign nationals are allowed to travel into Canada if they are fully vaccinated or if they are unvaccinated but must travel due to particular circumstances (see more below).

Fully Vaccinated Travelers

Fully vaccinated foreign nationals (non-Canadians) are allowed to enter Canada. To qualify as fully vaccinated, you must:

  • Have received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine
  • Have received your last dose at last 14 days before your travel date into Canada
  • Provide proof of vaccination
  • Experience no symptoms of COVID-19 on the day of travel into Canada

For fully vaccinated non-Canadians seeking to travel into Canada and fully vaccinated Canadian citizens entering Canada, you must follow these steps to be allowed entry into Canada:

  1. Prepare a quarantine plan just in case you do not qualify as a fully vaccinated traveler. A border agent may ask you to explain your suitable plan for 14 days of quarantine upon entry into Canada.
  2. Upload proof of vaccination, quarantine, and travel information into the free app, ArriveCAN, up to 72 hours before you travel.
    • Even though you will upload proof of vaccination (like a picture of your vaccine card) to ArriveCAN, you still must bring your proof of vaccination with you to the border.
  3. Bring the following documents with you to show the border agent, either on paper or as a screenshot:
    • ArriveCAN receipt with the letter I, V, or A beside the vaccinated traveler’s name
    • Proof of vaccination
    • Other travel documents normally required for cross-border travel (such as a passport or visa, as applicable)
  4. Be prepared for a randomized arrival COVID-19 test at the border. 
    • If you are selected at random, you will be required to complete an arrival test on the day you enter Canada. 
    • You will be able to travel to your destination without waiting for the results of your test.

Children under age 5 are exempt from vaccination requirements, and do not need to provide a COVID-19 test result.

Unvaccinated children aged 5 through 11 traveling with fully vaccinated guardians must provide a negative test result and do not need to quarantine upon entry into Canada.

Unvaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 17 are subject to a 14-day quarantine and all testing requirements for pre-entry, whether or not they are traveling with a fully vaccinated guardian.

Unvaccinated or Partially Vaccinated Travelers

Foreign nationals (non-Canadians) who have not been fully vaccinated cannot enter Canada for leisure travel, including for optional reasons such as: visiting a seasonal home, a personal or casual visit, tourism, or entertainment.

Foreign nationals who have not been fully vaccinated are only allowed to enter Canada in specific circumstances. These include, but are not limited to:

  • You have already recovered from COVID-19 and can provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test conducted between 14 and 180 days before your entry into Canada.
  • You are entering Canada to take part in an amateur sports event that has been authorized by the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage.
  • You work in an essential service industry that requires cross-border travel, including trade, transportation, emergency services, etc., deemed essential by the Chief Public Health Officer.
  • You are entering Canada for compassionate reasons, such as for a funeral. You will need to apply for compassionate entry and/or limited (temporary) release from quarantine.
  • You are entering Canada to receive essential medical treatment and will remain under medical supervision for 14 days beginning on the day you enter Canada.
  • You are a student studying and living in Canada, or a person driving such a student. 

If you are eligible to enter Canada as an unvaccinated foreign national or if you are an unvaccinated Canadian citizen, you must follow these steps to be allowed entry into Canada:

  1. Make a plan to quarantine for 14 days in a place where food and necessities will be available or delivered without contact. 
    • A border agent will ask you about your quarantine plan to ensure it is suitable.
    • You may be exempt from this requirement depending on your specific circumstance; see more here.
  2. Get a pre-entry COVID-19 test with a negative result within 72 hours of your planned entry into Canada.
    • Required for all travelers over the age of 5, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status.
    • Acceptable forms of tests include PCR, NAT or NAATs, and RT-LAMP tests. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.
    • Proof of the negative test result must be presented in paper or electronic format at the border.
  3. Register for a COVID-19 test upon arrival. Creating an account online saves time at the border.
    • Upon entry into Canada, you will either take a test at the border or receive a home test kit at no fee. You will also receive a kit to use on Day 8 of your mandatory quarantine.
    • Both the arrival test and Day 8 test must be negative for you to leave your place of quarantine after a full 14-day quarantine. If either test is positive, you will be required to isolate immediately, and a government representative will contact you with additional instructions.
  4. Submit quarantine and travel information into the free online tool or app, ArriveCAN, up to 72 hours before you travel.
  5. Bring the following documents with you to show the border agent, either on paper or as a screenshot:
    • ArriveCAN receipt
    • Pre-entry test results
    • Quarantine plans
    • Other travel documents normally required for cross-border travel (such as a passport or visa, as applicable)

Traveling from Canada to the United States

United States citizens (including dual citizens) and lawful permanent residents are allowed to enter the United States regardless of vaccination status.

All foreign nationals entering the United States (for essential or non-essential travel) must show proof of full vaccination, with very few exceptions.

If you are traveling by air into the United States, you will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 viral test taken no more than 1 day before travel, regardless of citizenship status. See additional details from the CDC here.

Fully Vaccinated Travelers

Starting on November 8, 2021, foreign nationals (non-Americans) will be allowed to travel into the United States if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with an FDA-approved or authorized or WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccine.

Travelers will be required to show proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination as well as applicable passports and visas as normal.

Unvaccinated or Partially Vaccinated Travelers

Foreign nationals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are not allowed to travel for non-essential reasons from Canada to the United States via land border. Non-essential travel includes tourism or recreational travel.

Certain exceptions apply for unvaccinated travelers entering the United States. Foreign nationals that are exempt from the vaccination requirement include, but are not limited to:

  • Children under 18 years of age
  • Travelers with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Travelers on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
  • Travelers issued a humanitarian or emergency exception
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children

To learn more, please see this fact sheet from the U.S. Embassy in Canada.

What if I don't have the required documents when crossing the border by bus or train?

If you travel on a bus or train to cross the land border of the United States and Canada, it is your responsibility to make sure you meet the requirements for entry of your destination country.

If you are refused entry at the border, the bus or train company assumes no responsibility, and it will be up to you to find transportation from the border crossing station. Since that sounds like a hassle and a half, make sure to have everything ready and accessible to be checked at the border.

Preparing to Cross the Border

Wanderu and our partner carriers are excited to help you travel across the United States-Canada border safely. To ensure the smoothest travel experience, please plan ahead and make sure you are familiar with the entry requirements for whichever country you will be traveling to, and bring the necessary documentation to show at the border crossing.

The information above is meant as a guide, but please keep in mind that restrictions change often, and the following resources will have the most updated information:

Remember that per federal law, masks are still required on all United States buses and trains, so keep your nose and mouth covered during your travels. For additional information about traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out our complete COVID-19 travel guide, including resources about specific carriers’ policies, cleaning protocols, and trip protection.

As always, we wish you safe travels!

Travel Safely

At Wanderu, we want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need to plan a safe trip. Please visit our COVID-19 Travel Guide for the latest tips & advisories.

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About the author
Bryn Culbert

Bryn Culbert

A planner at heart, Bryn loves nothing more than researching and creating a detailed travel itinerary. She is partial to quirky museums, hole-in-the-wall coffeeshops, and overstuffed bookstores in the cities she visits.